What is Carbon?

  • Carbon is the most common chemical element which has the symbol C and atomic number 6.
  • Carbon is a member of group 14 on the periodic table.
  • The name carbon comes from the Latin word carbo, coal.
  • It is the 15th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and 4th most abundant element after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen.

When Carbon atoms are bonded together in different ways, they are called as allotropes of carbon. Some best-known allotropes are diamond, graphite, and amorphous carbon. Graphite is one of the softest known substances and diamond is the hardest substance. Its physical properties may vary from the allotropic form. For Example- Graphite is opaque, and diamond is transparent. It bonds with other small atoms that include other carbon atoms and is capable of developing multiple stable covalent bonds.

Table of Contents


      • Carbon is Non-metallic
      • Carbon is Tetravalent
      • It has 3 naturally occurring isotopes( 12C and 13C – stable, 14C – radioactive)
      • It has several allotropes and the best known are graphite, diamond, and amorphous carbon.
      • Carbon has a high melting point and can easily combine with oxygen at elevated temperatures.
      • It acts as an excellent hardener for iron and yields the various steel alloys.
      • The radioactive isotope of carbon is C-14 which is used to date ancient objects of organic origin.

Importance of Carbon:

Carbon is important for all the known living systems, and life could not exist without it. Carbon is available in the form of hydrocarbons other than food and wood such as fossil fuel, methane gas, and crude oil. Carbon fibres have multiple uses since they are strong, yet lightweight, durable materials. These fibres are used in making tennis rackets, fishing rods,aeroplanes, and rockets. The industrial diamonds are used for drilling and cutting rocks.

Physical and Biological role:

Carbon dioxide (CO2) a form of carbon is an essential element present in the air and in the water for sustaining life on earth. Photosynthesis by green plants takes their energy from the sun in order to break down water into oxygen and hydrogen. The living organisms who cannot perform photosynthesis are bound to rely on other living organisms in order to consume their minimum requirements of carbon dioxide molecules. Thus, a balance of carbon and oxygen is necessary for the survival of almost all living organisms on this planet.

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Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs


Why is carbon so important?

Carbon is life’s fundamental building stone. This is why carbon dating is reliable and carbon is found in all living things. Also, since nearly all molecules in the body contain carbon, carbon is so essential to life. Carbon can bind to, and to other carbon molecules, four other groups around it.


What is carbon cycle and its importance?

In ecosystems, the carbon cycle is important because it transfers carbon, a life-sustaining factor, through species from the atmosphere and oceans and back to the atmosphere and oceans again. Scientists are currently researching ways in which humans can use other fuels containing non-carbon for electricity.


How does carbon affect the environment?

The volume of water vapour in the atmosphere and therefore the scale of the greenhouse effect are regulated by carbon dioxide. Increasing emissions of carbon dioxide are now causing the earth to heat up. Since the ocean soaks up heat, greenhouse warming does not happen right away.


What is the function of carbon cycle?

Carbon shapes essential molecules like protein and DNA as new life is created. It is also present in the form of carbon dioxide, or CO2, in our atmosphere. The carbon cycle is the manner in which nature reuses carbon atoms that migrate from the atmosphere into the Earth’s species and then back into the atmosphere over and over again.


How is carbon formed?

The formation of the carbon atomic nucleus happens by the triple-alpha mechanism within a giant or supergiant star. In the interiors of stars on the horizontal branch, carbon is created, according to the latest theory of physical cosmology. As big stars die like a supernova, carbon is dispersed like ashes into space.

Continue learning about the element carbon and its different forms with charts and interesting video lectures @BYJU’S.

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